Ahhh…grist for the mill of awakening

I pulled into the parking lot of our local grocery store a few months ago and noticed these dogs in the car next to me…so friggin cute

Thanksgiving is a few days away, and for many of us this can be a time of intense emotions and feelings: happiness, anxiety, joy, sadness, contentment, loneliness, inner peace, anger and resentment, compassion, disappointment, belonging, rejection, anticipation…and at least for me, the “negative” emotions are doubly charged because I don’t think that I should be feeling these…especially around the holidays. But I’ve come to know that part, if not all, of the pain is the result of me resisting what is happening or what I am feeling in the moment…thinking that things/people should be different than they are/were, or that I should be different than I am/was.

When I find myself in the middle of this negative thought, I try first of all to acknowledge the feelings…not fight with them…and then, if I can, I try to find a different/new way of seeing.

This isn’t easy with old wounds. If I can catch myself in a new situation that is challenging, and I don’t let it gain momentum, often times it transforms…but with those old experiences that I didn’t have the tools or the desire to handle in a higher way, I unconsciously built up a stories and told them (even if just to myself) over and over until my version, my small little painful version, seemed like the only truth. There is a part of the mind that strongly balks at the idea of seeing painful situations in a new light…especially if we feel we were the ones who were “innocent”.

When my father died in February and had cut off communication with me for the last 6 months of his life, I had a pretty strong resentment against him and his wife, Jane, who didn’t let me know about his condition, and left it to her daughter to call me after he had died. During that phone call, she casually told me that my father was very important to her and that he only wanted her there during his last days. I didn’t even know this woman. It felt like the final insult from all of them, and yet, I knew a different story.

While my father was alive, and we were communicating, he would say to me, almost every time we met, “Jane is very hard but I’m too old to get a divorce. I have to go to her family functions. They don’t mean anything to me.” He was tired. He didn’t want to fight with her so he gave up and gave in. My father was a good actor and he was dishonest in so many ways, but I still loved him and I knew that he loved me.

So, several months after his death when I still felt angry and indignant, I made a decision to see things differently. I didn’t try to see a new angle, but I wanted to be out of the pain of resentment so I became willing…I became a little bit more open. Shortly after I made this decision, while on a walk, I had a huge insight and saw the last 6 months of my father’s life in a new way, “He was sick and dependent on Jane. There was no way that anyone was going to see him except they go through her. He was sparring me that! Oh my god…I knew the truth of it. Maybe it was cowardly on his part, maybe it wasn’t a healthy way of dealing with our relationship but it was his way of protecting me and it was the best he could do.” As I continued on my walk, I thanked him and I could feel his energy and smile…I heard him laugh. I got it.

But now I needed to see the situation with his wife and stepdaughter in a new way, because I didn’t feel the love with them and never had a positive history to draw upon.

I’ve watched myself over this past year with several resentments…thinking they are gone and then finding the angry thoughts back and as intense as ever. I’ve even exclaimed in exasperation, “I wish this could just be gone once and for all! I am so sick of thinking about ____”. But was I really?

Being honest with myself, I had to say no, I wasn’t. There was something that I was getting out of these resentments and the rehashing of the past. In the AA literature, there is a line that has always stayed with me,

“In a perverse way we can actually take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority.” (The Twelve and Twelve, page 67)

Did I feel superior to Jane and her daughter? When I asked this question, I had to say that yes I did. I knew their history…I also knew how Jane and my father had met and it was extremely embarrassing for him.

Had I forgiven her? No. I’d only given it lip service.

Ouch. Now I could see it clearly. Forgiveness is a spiritual law…if I don’t do it, then I don’t feel it. Period. I could hold onto these resentments forever and not allow myself to grow or I could do the very big work of allowing a new way of seeing. This is where my immature adolescent girl rears her head. She would rather say, “F  you. You hurt me and now I hope that you are miserable. No way I want you to feel happy and blessed. I want you to suffer!”

But my higher self says, “You are the one who is suffering, Mary. It is time to let go. It is time to forgive so you can be free. The choice is yours. You want it to be easy but maybe it isn’t. Is that OK with you? Are you willing to go through the fire as the petty, vengeful, thoughts burn away?”

And I answered, “Yes I am. Help!” A few days later I was helping Jack clean out an old trunk at his store and he handed me a book, The Gentle Art of Blessing, that I’d given him a few years back. I opened it and read the following passage,

“What is appealing about the spiritual path, as the American spiritual teacher Ram Dass has stressed, is that everything is ‘grist for the mill.’ Absolutely everything—a traffic jam, an illness, a theft, a noisy neighbor, a flat tire—becomes an opportunity to learn, discover, progress, repent, rejoice, unveil, awaken, love more, and wonder. The smallest detail of life, every single encounter—be it with a saint or a snail—can sparkle with tender interest and become aglow with enchantment.”*

These few words helped me to reframe my resentments…why not simply call them “grist”. I loved that thought. If the grinding feelings inside can be redirected from telling the same old painful story to a feeling of productive energy then why not give this a try…and I did. Instantly I felt lighter and more open. Who doesn’t want to “sparkle with tender interest and become aglow with enchantment”?

This lovely little book opened a door for me…a door that I was ready and willing to walk through…what a relief…. not that I’m done with this work…maybe it will go on for as long as I am alive. Fine. I’m human too. Sometimes I feel so inadequate to the task…but sometimes not.

So, as this season of Light approaches, I wish for you all open hearts and open doors…and if you’re not ready to walk through them yet, fine…I love you anyway, just as I am loved as I walk, and sometimes stumble, on this path of awakening. I love you as I love myself because you are human too and you and I have egos that sometimes act like spoiled kids…and sometimes we can just laugh at this…but we keep walking.



*The Gentle Art of Blessing by Pierre Pradervand

I’ve come unglued…finally!


New painting, The Jeezum Crow Inn, is currently displayed at The Village Wine and Coffee in Shelburne, VT, along with a number of other pieces of mine…(all are for sale!)

I used to believe that I was the glue that held things together…. especially when it came to relationships. If I hadn’t contacted someone in what I thought was a reasonable length of time, I would feel guilty and immediately take action in the form of a phone call, email (once upon a time this meant writing a letter), or visit. With one family member in particular, 99% of the time, I initiated the contact because I believed her lack of initiation was “just the way she was”. A friend of hers once told me that she felt the same way, and I guess this was the evidence that I wanted to support the illusion that she “needed” me in this way.

Then one day I overheard another family member say that this person, whom I labeled as unable to reach out to others, called and emailed him often.

I was stunned. It was as if my mind couldn’t take that information in because along with seeing her in a new way I also realized that she didn’t really want to contact me. She wasn’t incompetent, forgetful, or too busy…she just didn’t want to connect with me! What a humbling revelation it was, and how difficult to admit this…even to myself.

I’ve seen and heard this scenario play out with many other people, especially in dating/friendship situations and have heard myself say, many, many times, “If you feel like he/she is avoiding you, he/she probably is. Trust that.”

But that is so hard on the ego. Our minds want to make up a story about the person to explain what is wrong with them instead of taking a deep breath and realizing that there is a disconnect between us… and it doesn’t make either person wrong or defective but if I feel like I’m banging my head against a closed door/person, I can choose to step back and observe myself.

In my case, I didn’t end the relationship, but I stopped initiating contact with her, and began to notice my feelings as I allowed a space to open up. I didn’t know what would happen, but as more time passed without any communication from her, an interesting peace filled the space. Since I was no longer feeling guilty and rushing to take action to alleviate that feeling, I was much freer to ask myself the question, “Do you want to connect with her at this moment?” If I did, then I trusted that and did it, but if I didn’t, I trusted that too.

I’ve spent way too many years anxiously trying to figure other people out…trying to figure out their needs, their motivations, and their issues, so I could be in some sort of relationship with them. It is such a small and controlling way to live, and we can’t do it anyway.

My only “work” is to know what is happening within myself, and I don’t mean understand myself in psychological terms. What I really mean is much simpler than that. All I really need to follow is that still, small, voice that always leads to peace and harmony for me. The reasoning mind comes up with a thousand theories a day in an attempt to make sense of things that cannot be explained, but the “knowing”…the deep knowing of which path, thought or action to take, is our only true and trustworthy guide…and it is always with us, always ready to take the lead.

You don’t experience anxiety unless you’ve attached to a thought that isn’t true for you. It’s that simple. You don’t ever feel anxiety until you believe that a thought is true—and it’s not.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change Your World


front and back of my new business card

vulnerable…and loving


When I was a young girl, I had an argument with my parents that led to me storming into my bedroom, picking up a clock radio, and smashing it against the wall while screaming, “You’ll never hurt me again!”

What had they done? What had I done? I can’t answer either of these questions but as I look back over my life, I see how afraid I’d been…afraid of being hurt by those people whom I loved and how I’d allowed that fear to gradually build a hard, defensive, shell around my heart.

I can also recall times when that shell felt good and strong and protective…and maybe it was. Maybe it served a purpose when I was so young and fearful, but the older I became, the more I realized that fear (which I almost always expressed as anger) was too small.

I used to sense that my life was not expansive enough, but the answer, I thought, was in doing something different; new work, travel, experiences, exercise, diet…whatever. And while these new activities added some sparkle and energy to my life, I knew deep down that I wasn’t living fully.

My breakthroughs have always come by surprise and often in the most unexpected ways. The last major breakthrough came in the summer of 2016 when I had my heart broken by someone whom I’d deemed incapable of hurting me in that way. And the reason that I didn’t think I could be hurt so deeply was because I’d never really committed my heart to him. That “vow” that I’d taken as a child was still functioning as a shield to love…the kind of love that demands vulnerability…and feels incredibly risky.

I hadn’t known how afraid I was until I was faced with a hurt deep enough to break me open…. but it did break me open and I allowed it to happen. I knew it was happening for me, not to me, and as the days, weeks and months passed, I hoped that the opening would be a one-time deal and that I wouldn’t revert back to self-protective, fearful, thoughts, but this hasn’t been my experience. When I got sober in 1986, it was a lighting bolt, life-changing moment: I never wanted to drink again, and I never have.

But this new opening has not unfolded in that way. I’ve had moments of intense anger (fear) that have made me feel like a victim who needs to protect herself from further pain. I’ve had moments of suspicion which have led to anger (fear) and yet again, the desire to self-protect and proclaim, “You’ll never hurt me again!”

But what would I be running from if not myself? I would be running from thoughts and feelings, my thoughts and feelings, that tell me I am not safe.

So as I walk this new path, I walk with the awareness that there is nothing to lose but my old belief that I am not safe and that I must protect myself. I cannot protect myself from getting hurt unless I also agree to limit my capacity to love and I am no longer willing to do that.

Several nights ago, I dreamt that I had escaped the clutches of an evil woman only to find myself back at her house. As I stood before her she said, “You have changed me” and I knew that I had nothing to fear…that she was a friendly force.

I am vulnerable and it feels like a freedom that I am just beginning to grasp the significance and power of. I invite you to join me on this path of trust…trust in our deepest essence and its wisdom to lead us to more life, love, and an inner peace that cannot be explained but can only be lived.


“When we fight with our failing

we ignore the entrance to the shrine itself

and wrestle with the guardian, fierce figure on the side of good.”

David Whyte


I’ve had this quote of David Whyte’s on my computer for a while…without ever looking him up or reading anything he’d written. Below is his TED talk, A Lyrical Bridge between Past Present and Future, and it is incredible. You can also find it on YouTube.







allowing ourselves to float


We would appreciate some of that cheese you’re eating

We listed our home for sale last week*. When the idea first came to me, it seemed frightening. The thought, “How can we sell our home when we don’t have another to move to?” screamed in my head, almost commanding me to back down. But it was followed by a deeper voice that said, “You are not selling your home today. You are listing it for sale. This is step 1”.

Jack was in agreement with listing our home, until we started to get phone calls and appointments for showings, and then he began to echo the sentiment of my earlier fear, so I just repeated what was given to me and said, “We did not sell our home, we listed it for sale. This was only our first step. If it isn’t right for us, nothing will happen, but if it is right, then step 2 will be given and we’ll take that then.”

This felt so right to me, but he didn’t even seem to take the concept in, and kept saying, “We can’t move without knowing where we are going!”

The spiritual teacher, Byron Katie, once said, “If you want fear and terror on purpose, get a future” and that was where Jack was. He was not staying in the moment, in the now, on step 1…if the steps could be numbered, he was probably on step 13, and it didn’t look good. In his vision we were pitiful, homeless, and broke, living from hand-to-mouth, begging for food for our animals and ourselves. I’m exaggerating here…but only a little.

After 3 days of utter agony, refusing to listen to anything that I offered, he talked with a friend who was able to bring him back to his center and the knowing that he only need stay in the moment and trust the larger part of himself. He needed to remember that he wouldn’t be led down a merry path, only to be dropped at the end.


Trust. Trust in what?


Over the past few months, I’ve been led to a new awareness of the Goodness that surrounds us all; the Goodness that we are an intricate, intimate part of, and so I have begun to trust in a new way that all really is well and that my part is to show up, be open, take action when it feels like I’m being asked to do so, and stay away from any fearful-mind stories. I’m not saying that those fearful thoughts don’t enter my consciousness, because they do, but they are different now. They don’t hold the same energy as before and I can see them for what they are…phantoms of old beliefs.

I want to live my life as if it is a grand adventure and I cannot do this if I need to plan out each step. But seriously, even if I, or you, or Jack, could plan out each step of our lives, would Life conform to that? When has that really ever happened, and is it even an adventure if by some chance “it” did turn out exactly as we planned?

And there is also the idea that anything that I (Mary Muncil, the little me) plan has to be teeny tiny compared to what the whole of me (divine mind combined with all of the other divine minds that make up ALL THAT IS) has in store.

This is the SELF that I trust.

Many years ago, I picked up the book, Illusions, by Richard Bach and was completely floored by the introduction, which I share with you below.

Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river. The current of the river swept silently over them all — young and old, rich and poor, good and evil — the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self.

Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current was what each had learned from birth.

But one creature said at last, “I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.”

The other creatures laughed and said, “Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed against the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!”

But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.

Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.

And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, “See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the messiah, come to save us all!”

And the one carried in the current said, “I am no more messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure….”


  • Introduction to the book, Illusions, by Richard Bach


*our home is listed on Zillow, 148 Dunbar Rd. Cambridge, NY 12816. There are lots of photographs. If you would like more information, feel free to email me at mmuncil@verizon.net.

Also, Jack and I are showing our work (44 pieces in total) from August 19th through Labor Day, at Gallery 668 in Battenville, NY. The opening is August 19th from 4-6 p.m. We will both be there as well as a number of other artists. For more information, feel free to email me at mmuncil@verizon.net


preview of some of our work at 668 GALLERY

don’t condemn the means

For a number of years, I had wanted to go to the Ralph Waldo Emerson House. I’d imagined myself walking on the same wooden floors, looking out the same windows, and touching the same walls, as this great man did so many years ago. I fantasied that some of his inspired thought might rub off on me if I could, even for a few minutes, occupy the same space that he once had.

Last week, Jack decided to make my dream a reality and planned a short get-away to Concord for us. Driving into the town, finding a wonderful restaurant for lunch and tea…everything was perfect, and although I was excited to go to the Emerson House, I was enjoying every moment of the build up.

We pulled up in front of his home and goose bumps flooded me. It looked like the pictures. We walked up the wide stone path to the front door and noticed a small sign that read, “RING THE BELL”, which I enthusiastically did.

A few seconds later, the door opened slightly and a woman’s head peaked out as she grumbled, “What do you want?” What do we want? My mind couldn’t make sense of her tone or meaning.

I replied, while pointing to the note on the door, “The sign says to ring the bell.” She looked at the sign as if it were foreign to her and then shot back, “The next tour isn’t until 2:30. It’s 2:00.” As if this should somehow satisfy us.

“Do we need to take a tour?” I asked.

“No, but you can’t come in now” she replied. “There are too many people in here already.”

“Can I just step inside?”

“No. Come back at 2:30, OK?”, she snapped and closed the door.

I was stunned. We walked around the back of the house into the garden area, trying to gather ourselves. As we sat on a bench in the shade, wondering what to do next, I felt something that I didn’t expect to feel at a moment like that…I felt curious.

What were we supposed to do? My mind kept wanting to relive the episode that we’d just experienced with the rude woman. It was saying things like, “You should report her to the board, I can’t believe how she treated us”, but I could feel that if I did that, I would be closing off something good. I was at a fork in the road and was being asked to choose: grumble just like she did, or choose to think, “This must be perfect, even if at this moment I don’t understand it.”

The idea of waiting around in 85-degree weather for a tour with this woman seemed completely unappealing. I turned to Jack and said, ‘What about going to Walden Pond?” Within minutes we were walking hand-in-hand into the cool, clear, refreshing, water of Walden Pond…we were swimming in the same lake as Thoreau had…maybe Emerson too. We spent 2 glorious hours swimming, sitting, and just being…it was heaven.

As we talked about the “closed door” at the Emerson House, it was clear what had happened: spirit had moved in an unusual way through this woman. If she had been even a little bit nicer, we might have waited around for the next tour, and although that would’ve been fine, there was something completely unexpected and magical about our time at Walden Pond.

It was also clear that I needed to keep focused on the wonder and goodness of all that had occurred and not condemn the means by which it happened. Getting angry, indignant, or stewing about the woman would have ruined my day…it might even have closed off the thought about going to Walden Pond.


Jack in Walden Pond…a very happy man!


“Reality unfolds perfectly. Whatever happens is good. I see people and things, and when it comes to me to move toward them or away from them, I move without argument, because I have no believable story about why I shouldn’t; it’s always perfect.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change Your Life, page 8



our beautiful selves



Several weeks ago as I was preparing for the opening of my new shop/gallery, I suddenly felt as though I had something in my left eye. At first, it felt like an eyelash, so I rinsed my eye repeatedly but it still bothered me. By 6 p.m. that evening, I was sitting in Urgent Care. My eye was bloodshot, severely irritated, and getting worse. The doctor prescribed antibiotic drops but within a few days, the other eye was affected as well, and neither improved for a week leaving me with blurry vision and a desire to see more clearly. During this time, I asked myself the question, “What am I not wanting/willing to see?”

The answer that came stunned me. It was, “You are afraid to trust your higher self completely. You are still afraid of getting hurt, so you try to protect and look out for yourself. You are ready to awaken more deeply and so a new level of trust is being asked of you now. It will require that you stop looking out for yourself.”

That sounds so simple and lovely. I knew it was the truth and yet I was still hesitant. I hadn’t realized how many fears I had inside…fears of getting hurt that I was trying to avoid by controlling my environment. I hadn’t seen the “comfortable” little walls I’d built around my life.

But as I allowed myself to see more clearly, example after example popped up: I didn’t trust my doctor and thought she might be missing something that could cause me to have a much more serious eye problem.

I didn’t trust that Jack really loved me and so I projected scenarios of him leaving and me being alone, resentful, and unhappy.

I didn’t trust myself and my ability (or lack thereof) to be in a committed relationship, and feared that I would leave someday and regret it.

I didn’t trust my body and feared that without a strict exercise regime I would get fat, unattractive, and weak.

I looked at my past and saw so many examples of how I felt as though I couldn’t trust life and had been afraid of getting hurt. As I allowed myself to see this part of my past, which seemed to be rising up from some dark, unexplored, area, I also asked myself, “What does, ‘I’ll get hurt’ really mean?”

In each scenario, I had projected an unhappy, miserable, sad or angry, me. Being left, being taken advantage of, being unattractive, being angry and then lashing out and burning bridges, being suspicious…all of the things that I feared had a common denominator: an unhappy me at the core which seemed to stem from an image that I’d held of myself.

I know that images can be changed but they must first be seen, and this is what I was being shown, and at the same time I was being asked, “Are you willing to see yourself as happy no matter what happens on the ‘outside?’”

I loved that question. I wanted to answer yes, so I tried it by asking, “Can I see myself as happy, even with a serious eye problem if that is what I have? Yes, I can imagine that. Can I see myself as happy even if I am single? Yes, I can imagine that too. Can I see myself staying in this marriage and being happy? Yes, I can imagine that too. I pulled to mind every fear of being hurt that I could remember/imagine, and then I imagined myself in that same situation but as a trusting, happy, calm, and relaxed woman.

I truly think that holding this happy image of myself in all situations is one of the most important lessons that I’ve been shown, and I look forward to witnessing the transformation of me.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths…beautiful people do not just happen.”  Elizabeth Kubler-Ross


offering my best

One of the things that I’ve found most challenging about my mother is our conversations…which have almost always felt like parallel monologues; she talked about other people and what they were doing (which to me felt like she was avoiding any “real” conversation) and I would in turn would try to introduce “meaningful” subjects (things that I found interesting).

I tried for a number of years just to listen to her, thinking that eventually she would ask me a question or inquire about my life in some meaningful way, but found that she would simply talk herself out and then, if I did begin to speak, that would somehow add fuel to her thoughts and she’d be off and running again, or she’d become uncomfortable and start looking around the room, get up and clean something (or once she got an ipad, she would turn to that).

I am 61 years old and had never found peace with this dynamic. I have always felt as though there was something wrong with me when it came to my mother and our relationship. Then last week in couple’s therapy, I told our therapist that I had stopped by my mother’s house and as she immediately began to talk about other people, I said, “Mom, I don’t want to talk about anyone else….” Our therapist replied to me by saying, “You are still trying to change your mother.” I knew that he was right…after all of these years, I still was trying to get my mother to be interested in me.

Then he looked at me with the most compassionate eyes and said, “Your mother doesn’t like you.” I knew it was the truth.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that my mother loves me, she just doesn’t like the woman that I am. I like to swear and have a particular affection for a word beginning with the letter F. I am direct. I like to ask questions. I am, at times, loud. I am curious about religion and spirituality and have always questioned ideas and beliefs which, in my upbringing, were the “unquestionable”. If someone told me that I couldn’t do something, this often felt like a challenge to me to do it. I am smart, and although I didn’t know this for a long time, my mother told me many times that this aspect of me intimidated her.

Over the past week, I’ve found a new sense of freedom when I’ve thought about my mother and I’ve had the interesting revelation that I don’t like her either. Just admitting this about myself, and acknowledging her feelings about me, has brought inner peace. I am free not to like her. She is free not to like me. She doesn’t need to change one bit for me to love her, but I don’t need to change to get her love either…as a mater of fact, I can’t.

I would go to the ends of the earth to help my mother if she needed me and I know that she’d do the same for me…this feels like real love….so good to know.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself, just as I am, then I can change.” Carl Rogers


Evolution of Little Wing Shop & Gallery opening June 10th at 10 a.m…(148 Dunbar Rd. Cambridge, NY). I’d love to meet you (or see you again!) if you’d like to stop by.